Friday, October 3, 2014

Vegetable Feature: Jicama

by Andrea Yoder

Jicama is a tropical plant that resembles a bean plant and is also known as yam bean, Mexican potato, chop suey bean, or “cooling tuber.” We grow jicama on plastic covered beds to trap additional heat and make the plants think they are in a warmer, tropical location. The plant forms blossoms that produce a pod containing seeds that can be planted to propagate the next year’s crop. While this is happening above ground, a tuber is swelling below ground. Sometimes a plant will produce a single tuber and sometimes a second one develops below the first.

Jicama bears resemblance to a potato or turnip. It has a thick, light brown skin that should be peeled away prior to eating. Jicama’s beauty lies inside with its crisp, crunchy white flesh. It is a mild, neutral flavored vegetable that is slightly starchy with a touch of sweetness. Jicama can be eaten raw or cooked. One of the most basic ways to eat jicama is to slice it into sticks and give it a squeeze of lime juice and a light sprinkling of chili powder. This is a common street food in many parts of Mexico. Jicama is most often used in salads and slaws, which are a nice accompaniment to grilled fish, chicken or beef dishes. It pairs well with citrus fruits and juice including limes and oranges. It also goes well with sweet & hot peppers, cilantro, mint, apples, mango, onions, chipotle, and sesame oil. While jicama is typically eaten raw, it can also be cooked. In Asia it is used in a variety of stir-fry type preparations. When stir-fried, jicama should be added towards the end of cooking to retain the crisp texture. If you let it get just slightly soft, it has an almost potato-like flavor and buttery texture.

It is best to eat jicama within a week or so. Because it is a tropical vegetable, it is susceptible to chill injury if stored at temperatures less than 55 degrees. Thus, we recommend storing your jicama at room temperature until you are ready to use it.

Apple-Jicama Slaw
Recipe borrowed from The Rodale Whole Foods Cookbook

Serves 6
1 medium jicama, peeled and cut into very thin matchsticks (about 3 cups)
3 crisp red apples, cut into very thin matchsticks (about 3 cups)
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 small fresh jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp sunflower or olive oil
2 Tbsp orange juice
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp honey
Salt and black pepper, to taste

1. In a large bowl, combine the jicama, apples, onion, jalapeño and cilantro.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, orange juice, lime juice and honey. Add the dressing to the vegetables and toss to evenly coat. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Sautéed Jicama
Recipe borrowed from The Rodale Whole Foods Cookbook. 

Serves 4
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 pound jicama, peeled, halved and cut into thick matchsticks
1 carrot, cut into thick matchsticks
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
⅓ cup water
Salt, to taste

1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the jicama, carrot and garlic. Cook, tossing frequently, until the jicama is golden brown around the edges, about 7 minutes.
2. Add the water and cook until the jicama and carrot are crisp-tender and the water has evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt to taste.
Note: This is a basic recipe that you could do any number of spin-offs with. In addition to or in place of carrots, you could also include sliced sweet peppers, broccoli stems or celery. For an additional touch of flavor, add a little bit of soy sauce and orange juice in place of the water. You could also add a drizzle of a flavorful nut or toasted sesame oil just before serving.

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